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How the world gives during a time of social dislocation

8 April 2020 at 3:56 pm
Emma Sakellaris
To come together to weather the immediate storm, a different approach to giving is needed, writes Emma Sakellaris, pointing to a rise in direct giving.

Emma Sakellaris | 8 April 2020 at 3:56 pm


How the world gives during a time of social dislocation
8 April 2020 at 3:56 pm

To come together to weather the immediate storm, a different approach to giving is needed, writes Emma Sakellaris, pointing to a rise in direct giving.

The ubiquitous presence of the coronavirus in people’s lives has challenged social conventions across the world in ways many of us have never seen. From virtual medical appointments, to entire industries shifting to remote working, we have even seen large-scale gatherings disappear overnight and, indeed, now be considered unacceptable.

Notwithstanding the fundamental dislocation and the effects of uncertainty playing out across communities, it is an interesting period for charitable giving and providing support to the most vulnerable. During a time of social dislocation, many are looking towards online and more direct means to provide such support.

At our core, Australians are good givers. More than 21 per cent of the population answered “yes” in the 2016 census to engaging in volunteer work, with Australian charities comprising at least 3.3 million volunteers, who help provide essential services to the community.

In recent years, structured giving has grown as the number of private ancillary funds, typically used for strategic long-term giving, has grown above pre-global financial crisis rates. This is predicted to rise to around 17 per cent of all giving by 2036, up from 7 per cent in 1996, according to research by JBWere

To come together to weather the immediate storm, a different approach to giving is needed – one which allows Australians to practice social distancing while actively supporting the delivery of urgent responses and sustainable solutions through grassroots philanthropy. In a world in which people feel more isolated than ever, social media has the power to not only keep people connected but to also support giving and delivery of critical services to the most vulnerable across our communities. 

If we look to our counterparts in the US, social media has already enabled a shift towards direct giving. Outpourings of generosity following the coronavirus outbreak have created a peer-to-peer model of charity whereby people donate directly to those who have lost income or are unable to pay bills. 

This is being facilitated by individuals calling out on their social media platforms for those facing financial hardship to get in touch. Due to the nature of social circles on these platforms and with many people impacted as livelihoods are affected, the gift often goes to the donor’s close friends or family. 

Crowdfunding is also on this rise, allowing people to extend beyond their own social circles to organised groups responding to the pandemic, charities, and others in need. In fact, worldwide crowdsourcing platform GoFundMe has seen a jump in donations in recent weeks with more than 22,000 coronavirus-related fundraisers collecting some $40 million from more than 630,000 donations across the world. 

As the global reverberations from the pandemic continue and entire communities are forced indoors, we can expect direct forms of giving to keep rising in popularity. Furthermore, as the impacts of coronavirus become more acute, the difference one person can make, and the ripple they can create, should not be undervalued. 

Testament to this is the recent response to the devastating bushfires, when only two months ago the world came together to rally around impacted communities. Donations, big and small, flowed from every corner of the globe to generate a remarkable response. 

As we face the greatest challenge of our lifetime, now is the time to support the most vulnerable in our community and to connect with each other, albeit online or over the telephone, with kindness and compassion and a focus on delivering critical need assistance and support.

Emma Sakellaris  |  @ProBonoNews

Emma Sakellaris is the executive general manager at Australian Unity Trustees.

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